17 December 2007

$18.00 A Day

Ron felt that he should help out the Salvation Army, because they had helped him. During November and December, he earns $18.00 a day as a bell-ringer. He has a fire-engine red collection bucket hanging from a tripod, and rings his Salvation Army-issue hand bell for several hours a day. People drop change, and the occasional bill, into the bucket. Ron has a headcold. He takes meds for high blood pressure. He makes sure to put on long underwear before donning his uniform. Local cops keep an eye on him when they can. A couple of weeks ago, armed men robbed a Boy Scout Christmas tree lot. One of the volunteers was pistol whipped. Ron worked security "back in the day," and as a young man spent a hitch in the Marine Corps. He is as aware of how to keep secure as anybody, but still worries about getting robbed. "I've seen people get killed when I was in the service,"he says. "I don't worry about me. I just hate to work all night only to have some crackhead rip me off." The Salvation Army provides him with a meal before work, and they transport him and the other bell ringers to and from their collection sites. Ron remains concerned about the after-shift meeting place, where the collection buckets are turned in to supervisors. Last night there was gunfire nearby. Ron is too old to work for day labor services, many of which he considers to be scams anyway. He certainly cannot make a living working as a bell-ringer. Currently he is working with local non-profit agencies to see about veteran's benefits, and maybe SSI. In two or three years, he'll be eligible for SS retirement. Meanwhile, a local agency placed him in a single-room-occupancy building in Over-The-Rhine. The other guys in the building call him Santa and chat him up about his bell-ringing adventure. "I'm grateful to have this little bit coming in," says Ron. "But when people are cussing at you, tossing food at you, or into the donation bucket, well --- sometimes I hate this time of year, you know?

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All original text (C) 2007, 2008 David J. Carney. All rights reserved.

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